The president of the Philippines just asked for US forces to leave his Southern region. Duterte cites security concerns for both his people and US forces. Duterte also claimed that peace in the Southern portion is unlikely as long as there is a military presence. Relations in East Asia are becoming more complicated all the time it seems. Now, Special Forces have been asked to leave the Philipinnes. Their safety has been cited as a reason. But looking at the broader and larger forces at work, this development does not come as a surprise.

There are some rumors abound, as well as potentially damaging scenarios for the United States. There are many models for development in the world. We’re witnessing leaders struggle to choose one. Democracy and the Western way of life means a system of government and an above board standard to conducting international and domestic business. Then, there is the model propagated by other power, including Russia.

Russia has come to stand for an alternative to the West. From the outside looking in, the West demands quite a bit. Not the least of which their troops, intelligence services, and a robust state department embassy in your country. The United States has the best intentions and co-opts the partnering governments. Seeking to work with other nation states, not against. But, popular sentiment and a feeling of imperialism towards the Americans are commonplace abroad.

The America we experience here and the one perceived abroad are two separate things. Here, it’s our way of life and freedom via democracy. Abroad many come to see us as an efficient killing machine that’s looking for anyone that might do us harm. But we’ve always worked with other nations. We wouldn’t have a nation without the help of other nation states.

President Duterte has country with a strong Islamist contingency. There’s an ISIS threat in his backyard. Japan is growing its defense spending and is often an overlooked nation. Japan is regularly considered as different from others because of the good vibes associated with their video game business and vehicles that have exported to the rest of the world. These have served as terrific ambassadors. But Japan is as corrupt and interested in regional influence as anyone else.

Duterte had a recent string of open anti-American statements and acts. He went as far to call President Obama a “son of a whore,” a statement he regrets. But his behavior, comments, and the recent expulsion of US forces from the South might be an indication of how his people feel. At the end of the day, most nation states do what is expected of them. The same applies to any individual, whatever is in their best interest.

ISIS is a growing threat in Southeast Asia.

Duterte and the civilians in his country suffer from instability and an unsure future. The South lives under an increased threat from ISIS. For whatever reasons that may be valid, that his Southern areas will not find peace unless US forces leave. But it wasn’t always this way. Duterte’s recent anti-Western attitude has confused his Western allies. However, through a different lens this may make some sense. It’s no secret there is anti-U.S. sentiment all over the world. The U.S. is doing its best to help others and make the world a safer place. That’s probably true at the senior levels where discussions are held and in the small exchanges between partner forces and military and government personnel.

Unfortunately, people with less in life tend to feel shorted by a greater system and conspiracy nations in the East are becoming more aggressive in their expansion. China has grown to be an economic world power and has not adopted the Western development model. Russia remains resistant and has doubled down on their vision moving forward. This emboldens people all over to believe they can challenge some kind of global status quo.

If, indeed, Duterte’s people see the American presence as a threat. Then, yes, get our military men and women out of there. It’s not worth it to possibly lose a life in a single day to do something about a problem that will persist for many years to come.

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